Charting Billions of (Endangered?) $100 Bills

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Economy & Finance, Policy & Politics


The ubiquitous $100 currency note — the Bill, the C-Note, the Benjamin — might be ready to cash out, at least if a group of influential economists have their way.

In a recent paper, scholars at Harvard University argue that the elimination of the $100 bill, along with other high-value currency notes around the world, could reduce corruption and restrict criminal enterprises.

Their findings even prompted a former U.S. Treasury Secretary, Lawrence Summers, to suggest that governments should stop printing $50 and $100 notes, reports The Wall Street Journal.

“I’d guess the idea of removing existing notes is a step too far. But a moratorium on printing new high-denomination notes would make the world a better place,” Mr. Summers wrote in an item for The Washington Post’s Wonkblog.

As the Journal reports, though, the $100 bill isn’t quite spent. About 10 billion of them — roughly $1 trillion in currency — are still circulating through the world economy (though far too few are in my wallet these days).

They’ve been printed at a steady rate during the last 30 years, according to data released by the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing. And another 1.5 billion have been ordered for the 2016 fiscal year, the agency says.

This chart plots the printing rates of the various U.S. dollar notes since 1980. Note the recent spike in $100 printing during the 2013 fiscal year. That fall the government began issuing a new round of $100 bills with enhanced security features. The printing fell off again last year to reflect the burst in new paper.

Government Currency Printing: 1980-2014

See a full-screen version.

Data: U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

Charting Americans’ Turkey Consumption Per Household: 1967-2012

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics, Economy & Finance

Americans who celebrate Thanksgiving generally enjoy a good bird, myself included. But is that the case in some years more than others?

This chart shows turkey production (254 million this year) normalized by the number of households estimated each year by the U.S. Census Bureau. In the sixties, turkeys were produced at lower per-household rates than, say, the 1990s. We’re back down to about two turkeys per household now:

Who knows why this shift occurred. Perhaps diets changed, or people purchased more food in bustling economic times, like the 1990s, or we started importing turkey from China. Any ideas?

You can gobble up the turkey data here.

Charting Unmarried Households And The Effect On Kids’ Future Income

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics, Economy & Finance

The New York Times has a fascinating story today about links between marriage and children and the growing class divide in America. The story focuses on two families — one led by a married couple, Chris and Kevin Faulkner; the other by a struggling single mom, Jessica Schairer:

The economic storms of recent years have raised concerns about growing inequality and questions about a core national faith, that even Americans of humble backgrounds have a good chance of getting ahead. Most of the discussion has focused on labor market forces like falling blue-collar wages and lavish Wall Street pay.

But striking changes in family structure have also broadened income gaps and posed new barriers to upward mobility. College-educated Americans like the Faulkners are increasingly likely to marry one another, compounding their growing advantages in pay. Less-educated women like Ms. Schairer, who left college without finishing her degree, are growing less likely to marry at all, raising children on pinched paychecks that come in ones, not twos.

The story is accompanied by two charts illustrating the trend. The first shows how the rate of women having children outside of marriage has increased among all racial groups:

This chart shows that children who don’t live with both parents are less likely to move up to higher income groups as adults:

Charting Netflix’s Stock Drop

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Economy & Finance

The last two days have been rough for Netflix. Here’s David Carr’s take on its latest woes:

In earnings announced on Monday, word came that for the first quarter, the company lost $4.6 million, its first loss since 2005. The company also said that its aggressive international expansion was going to take longer than expected. Netflix stock tanked, down over 14 percent on Tuesday.

This area chart shows how quickly the video service’s stock dropped in after-hours trading following the earnings announcement late Monday:

See larger version, via Yahoo! Finance.

How Americans Spending Habits Compare With Other Countries

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Economy & Finance

From The Washington Post

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has a fascinating new report out that compares consumer budgets in the United States, Canada, Britain and Japan. As the graph below shows, there’s a huge amount of variation in what people in each country are spending their money on: 

Visualizing Gas Prices by State, Income and Time

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Economy & Finance

Gas prices risen for the eighth straight day, part of a trend that’s driven the cost up 17% this year, according to AAA data reported by CNN Money:

The national average price for a gallon of gasoline rose for the eighth straight day on Saturday to $3.835. That is now only about 7% below the record high of $4.11 from July 2008.

CNN mapped the gas prices data by state: 

CNN also created a map illustrating the percentage of residents’ income spent on gas by state. Mississippi residents spend almost 12 percent of their income on gas, for example:  

This line chart uses Bureau of Labor Statistics data (not adjusted for inflation) to show the trend over my lifetime:


DC’s ‘Dining Desert’

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics, Economy & Finance

The Washington Post has a story today about the lack of sit-down restaurants across the Anacostia River in neighborhoods that are among the poorest in the city. 

For decades, the main arteries east of the Anacostia River have been dominated by carry-out joints and fast-food chains, their menus catering to an African American population that is the city’s most impoverished. In wards 7 and 8, with 140,000 residents, District officials and community leaders say they’re aware of just six restaurants that provide waiter service, including a Denny’s and an IHOP. The dearth of choices fuels the sense among residents that theirs is a forgotten part of Washington.

This map shows the disparity in Wards 7 and 8:  


WSJ Unemployment Tracker

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Economy & Finance

The Wall Street Journal posted an interactive heat map to visualize the unemployment rate nationally over time. The backstory from the latest numbers: 

Under the government’s definitions, people only count as unemployed when they’re actively looking for work. So when the unemployment rate drops, it could mean that unemployed people found jobs, or it could mean that they gave up looking for work. The employment-population ratio, which measures how many people are actually working, is harder to fool.

Today’s jobs report carries good news on both fronts. The unemployment rate fell, and the employment-population ratio rose. That means the improvement in the labor market is real — people actually found jobs.

Charting Recessions and Recoveries

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Economy & Finance

Amanda Cox from The New York Times charted the current downturn compared with history: 

Horizontal axis shows months. Vertical axis shows the ratio of that month’s nonfarm payrolls to the nonfarm payrolls at the start of recession. Note: Because employment is a lagging indicator, the dates for these employment trends are not exactly synchronized with National Bureau of Economic Research’s official business cycle dates.

Charting ‘Mass Layoffs’

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Economy & Finance

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this week that employers in December conducted roughly 1,380 “mass layoffs,” incidents in which more than 50 workers lose their jobs. That happened to about 145,000 Americans last month, according to new filings for unemployment benefits. 

That figure seems high, but compare it to February 2009, the height of the recession. Back then more than twice as many mass layoffs occurred, affecting 326,000 employees — including 145,000 in the manufacturing sector alone. 

This quick chart, made with Google Docs, shows how these incidents have slowly declined over the months since (see larger, interactive version): 

This chart shows how such incidents spiked in 2001 and 2009 — years in which the U.S. economy struggled (see larger, interactive version): 

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